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Leap Year!

Well folks - tomorrow is the day: February 29th! 2012 is a Leap Year!

Now, if you thought, as I did prior to my little online search, that a Leap Year falls every fourth year, you'd be mistaken.


Yep. Almost right, but still mistaken.

You see, the Earth does a complete orbit around the sun in slightly less than 365.25 days - 365.24-something or-other to be {somewhat} exact. So, we have a leap year in every year that is divisible by 4, with the exception of those years that are divisible by 100 but not by 400. This prevents the calendar from going out of whack by 3 days every 400 years. 2000 was a leap year - the next centennial leap year will be 2400.

And if you thought that old calendar-changing Pope Gregory was responsible for this whole Leap Year idea, well, you'd be off on that account too! He did come up with the formula above; however, Leap Years were part of the ancient Roman calendar: every second year had a a 22 or 23 day month to ensure festivals/harvest were streamlined year after year... That is, until Julius Caesar's astronomer recommended adding a 29th day to Februarius every fourth year (and so it was from 45 BC until Gregory stepped in with his little 400 thingie in 1582).

Not that the concept of a leap year is original to the Roman or Gregorian calendars: both the Chinese and the Hebrew calendars also recognise that time doesn't quite align with nature. The Chinese calendar incorporates a leap year with an entire extra month to ensure that the winter solstice always ends up in the 11 month of the calendar. As for the Hebrew calendar, it adds Adar Bet seven times every nineteen years (specifically, in years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19) to ensure Passover is always celebrated in the Spring.

Now, a couple more interesting tidbits:
  • Folks born on February 29th are called "leaplings" or "leapers". It was once believed that leapers would become sickly children and be difficult to raise! 
  • Legally, a person born on February 29th will reach maturity on February 28th of their 18th year (for voting purposes, drinking privileges, and other important stuff :-)
  • It was once thought that Leap Years threw nature out of balance (go figure!) .... peas and beans were believed to "grow the wrong way" if planted in a Leap Year, and the Scots had a saying: "Leap year was never a good sheep year."
  • In Ireland, ancient custom held ladies could propose marriage to men only on February 29th. If she wore a red petticoat, a gentleman would say yes, if not, he would owe her a silk gown and a kiss. 
  • St. Bridget is said to have proposed marriage to St. Patrick on February 29th. He turned her down. 

And so, I got to thinking, as I sometimes do about how one could possibly add a bit of oomph to a Leap Day Dinner with the Fam.... here's what I came up with:
  • Have a four-ingredient only supper
  • What would the kids think about being born on a Leap Year? It will make an interesting dinner conversation ;-)
  • Play Addition Go Fish, but incorporate the numbers 2, 4 or 9 in every equation (i.e.: Do you have a 5+2? {7} - No? Go Fish! ... Do you have a 4 +4? etc.)
  • Have a scavenger hunt for 29 items in your home. 
  • See if you can walk/jog around the neighbourhood 2 times in less than 29 minutes (4 times if your block is small!)
  • Play leap frog! (ob-vi-ous, right?)
  • LOVE this idea from Kids Activities (I'm not the only one with leap years on the brain, apparently!)Make a Leap Year Time Capsule - for those with no patience to wait the usual 10-25+ years! Jot down some notes to each other or record your interests/likes/dislikes and check in on it next Leap Year. You could even keep it going, adding to the same time capsule (and labeling it!) every 4 years! It would be a great treasure in years to come:-)

Have a fun one :-)

For more information on Leap Year, visit my sources:  About.comWikipedia, Yahoo Answers

PS - EDIT: Just found these ideas online too: click here.

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